Quarantine and COVID-19 rules when entering the United States

Image source: CBP Photo by Glenn Fawcett

Due to the corona crisis, we receive questions about the current U.S. travel restrictions as well as about the quarantine and COVID-19 regulations that apply upon entry and within the United States. We therefore provide general information regarding quarantine in the U.S. and also refer to the current COVID-19 / quarantine regulations of all U.S. states.

 

General information on quarantine and U.S. entry

With the fall of the Travel Ban, travel to the U.S. can once again take place since November 8, 2021, albeit under strict hygiene guidelines.

The new regulation largely lifts the regulations for foreign travelers from certain countries that had been established until then and instead introduces a uniform global regulation.

The U.S. government requires air travelers worldwide to present either a

  1. negative COVID-19 viral test (NAAT or PCR),
    or
  2. certification that they have previously experienced COVID-19 and have recovered.

Note: U.S. citizens, holders of a Green Card, a visa, or ESTA authorization, as well as fully vaccinated individuals, also require a corresponding certificate.

Only airline crewmembers (C-1/D visas), certain U.S. government personnel, military personnel, and travelers under two years of age are exempt from the testing requirement.

The basis for these additional measures is the global airline testing order "Requirement for negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 for all airline or other aircraft passengers arriving into the United States from any foreign country." The order applies to direct and connecting flights to the U.S. by travelers who are two years of age or older and imposes specific requirements regarding the COVID-19 test or confirmation letter.

Image of COVID-19 quarantine measures in Florida

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SUBMISSION OF THE NEGATIVE CORONA TEST

  • The test must be a viral test (antigen or PCR test).
  • The maximum allowed time for the test depends on the vaccination status of the person traveling:
    Fully vaccinated against Corona: max. 3 days before departure.
    Unvaccinated / not fully vaccinated persons: max. 1 day before departure (unvaccinated children aged 2-17 years need a test certificate not older than 1 day if traveling without parents or with at least one unvaccinated parent. For travel with fully vaccinated parents, a test no older than 3 days is sufficient).
  • The negative test may be in written form or electronically and must contain details of the testing site performing the test (physician, testing center, laboratory).
  • The master data in the test result must match the traveler's data (e. g., name, date of birth) and include the following wording:
    "NEGATIVE," "SARS-CoV-2 RNA NOT DETECTED," "SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN NOT DETECTED," or "COVID-19 NOT DETECTED."

Image of a U.S. traveler during COVID-19

REQUIREMENTS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HAD COVID-19

Individuals who have previously had COVID-19 must provide evidence of their recovery.

  • The test at that time must have been viral.
  • The positive test result must be no more than 90 days old and must include the following wording:
    "POSITIVE," "SARS-COV-2 RNA DETECTED," "SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN DETECTED," or "COVID-19 DETECTED."
  • A written confirmation from a physician is also required, which has been prepared on official header sheet of the physician / hospital with all master data of the issuer (e.g., name, address, telephone number), whereby the master data of the traveler must match the information on the letter.

    It is expected that if at least one requirement is not met (e.g., test result older than 90 days), a negative test must be submitted.

Anyone entering the United States under these requirements after January 26, 2021, will receive an attestation from the airlines, which must be signed.

Note: While individuals recovered from Corona in several European countries (including Germany) receive only a single dose of vaccine after infection and are considered fully vaccinated with only one dose of vaccine, this practice is not recognized by CDC. According to CDC, two doses of a two-dose vaccination series or one dose of a single-dose vaccination are mandatory. As a result, affected individuals cannot travel unless they qualify for another exemption.

Hygiene and distance rules for air travel

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, stricter entry controls and quarantine requirements have applied and continue to apply.

Although the entry procedure may vary depending on the U.S. state or port of entry, general hygiene and distance rules (face mask requirement, certain distance away from other people, regular hand washing, etc.) apply:

Departure / flight:

  • disinfection of hands
  • document control
    complete vaccination certificate or certificate of exemption
    negative COVID-19 test or certificate of recovery from COVID-19 disease
    NOTE: We strongly recommend all travelers to check in advance with the respective airline which application documentation is exactly required to avoid problems at check-in.
  • fill in the U.S. traveler health declaration (corona form)

Entry:

  • partly medical examination / temperature check and corresponding entry in the corona form
  • If you do not show any symptoms of coronavirus: presentation of a negative corona test and (depending on the state) a 14-day domestic quarantine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    NOTE: In some cases the 14-day quarantine is "only" recommended.
  • If clear corona symptoms are evident: You will be subject to immediate quarantine and, if necessary, receive further treatment in special hospitals.
  • presentation of the corona form
  • additional interviews by CBP officers, if necessary

Note: The U.S. quarantine regulations depend on the current corona case numbers and are therefore subject to constant changes. In addition, the regulations vary greatly depending on the U.S. state through which you enter the United States.

Image of american police officer with face mask

On-site quarantine and COVID-19 rules depending on the U.S. state

Quarantine regulations upon entry into the U.S.

On-site quarantine regulations and sanitation measures – i.e., after entry into the U.S. has occurred – will vary based on the vaccination status of individuals traveling beginning November 8, 2021:

  COVID-19 vaccinated COVID-19 unvaccinated
Mask requirement Wearing mouth/nose covering is required indoors on public transportation and in U.S. transportation hubs (including airplanes). Wearing mouth/nose covering is required indoors on public transportation and in U.S. transportation hubs (including airplanes).
Other requirements CDC recommendation:
  • COVID-19 testing 3-5 days after arrival in the U.S.
  • in case of COVID-19 symptoms: retest and self-isolation for at least 10 days
Obligation:
  • (varying) requirements by respective U.S. states
  • in case of positive test result: self-isolation for at least 10 days
Obligation:
  • COVID-19 test 3-5 days after arrival in the U.S. (exceptions: U.S. citizens, Green Card holders, U.S. military personnel, airline crewmembers, and COVID-19 recoverers with proof of recovery no longer than 90 days ago).
  • immediately upon arrival in the U.S., seven-day self-quarantine at home or hotel, even if test is negative (exceptions: U.S. citizens, Green Card holders, U.S. military personnel, airline crewmembers, children under 18 years of age, COVID-19 vaccine study participants, and COVID-19 recoverers with proof of recovery no longer than 90 days ago)
    NOTE:
  • in case of positive test result or COVID-19 symptoms: self-isolation for at least 10 days
  • in case of stay over 60 days in the U.S.: COVID-19 vaccination required no later than 60 days in the U.S. (or as soon as medically possible); exceptions: U.S. citizens, Green Card holders, U.S. military personnel, airline crewmembers, persons with medical contraindication, and children under 18 years of age. Written confirmation by signature on airline confirmation (see above)
  • (varying) requirements of the respective U.S. states

 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is subject to almost constant fluctuations, quarantine rules and regulations in the 50 states are constantly being adapted.

Who needs to be quarantined?

Quarantine regulations within the U.S.

The quarantine and COVID-19 regulations within the U.S. are very different, which makes it difficult for U.S. travelers to always stay informed. While there are strict quarantine regulations in some U.S. states (Alaska, Hawaii, etc.), there are hardly any regulations in other regions of the United States. Companies and their employees must therefore make sure they are aware of the current regulations in the U.S. state through which the employees wish to enter the country.

In this context, it is important to note that more and more states are requiring either a home quarantine or a negative COVID-19 test not older than three days, even for travel within the United States. This means that you may need to take into account regulations of several states when planning your travel route in the United States.

Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website for information about COVID-19 testing sites.

In the following we refer in detail to the official COVID-19 safety information of the individual U.S. states. This list is in alphabetical order.

COVID-19 guidelines of the 50 U.S. states
Alabama Tourism Department Department of Public Health
Alaska COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Social Services
Arizona Office of Tourism Department of Health Services
Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism Department of Health
Colorado COVID-19 Advisory Department of Public Health & Environment
Connecticut COVID-19 Advisory Department of Public Health
Delaware Tourism Office Division of Public Health
Florida COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Georgia COVID-19 Advisory Department of Public Health
Hawaii Tourism Authority State Department of Health
Idaho Department of Commerce - Tourism Development Department of Health and Welfare
Illinois City of Chicago COVID-19 Advisory Department of Public Health
Indiana COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Iowa Tourism Office Department of Public Health
Kalifornien Office of Tourism Department of Public Health
Kansas COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Environment
Kentucky Team Kentucky Department for Public Health
Louisiana Travel Association Department of Health
Maine COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Human Services
Maryland Office of Tourism Department of Health
Massachusetts COVID-19 Advisory Department of Public Health
Michigan COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Human Services
Minnesota Tourism Office Department of Health
Mississippi Development Authority State Department of Health
Missouri Division of Tourism Department of Health and Senior Services
Montana Office of Tourism Department of Public Health and Human Services
Nebraska COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Human Services
Nevada COVID-19 Advisory Division of Public and Behavioral Health
New Hampshire COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Human Services
New Jersey COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
New Mexico Tourism Department Department of Health
New York COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
North Carolina COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Human Services
North Dakota COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Ohio COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Oklahoma COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Oregon Tourism Commission Health Authority, Public Health Division
Pennsylvania COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Rhode Island COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
South Carolina COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health and Environmental Control
South Dakota Department of Tourism Department of Health
Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Department of Health
Texas Office of the Governor, Economic Development & Tourism Department of State Health Services
Utah Office of Tourism Department of Health
Vermont COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Virginia COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health
Washington, D.C. COVID-19 Advisory  
Washington Tourism Alliance State Department of Health
West Virginia Tourism Office Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health
Wisconsin COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health Services
Wyoming COVID-19 Advisory Department of Health

 

For more information about current quarantine regulations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Please note that the final decision on to the eligibility of each individual to enter the United States is made by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the border.

Quarantine and COVID-19 rules when leaving the country

Depending on the requirements of the destination country, a new Corona test may also be required when leaving the United States.

The reason for this is that strict entry regulations apply to individuals traveling (back) to Germany, for instance, from a high risk area such as the United States.

In any case, please contact the respective local authorities for information on the currently applicable regulations.

Updated on 8.11.2021


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